The integrity of Australia's visa system was strengthened today following the passage of legislation prohibiting people from receiving payment in return for sponsoring temporary and permanent foreign workers.
The Migration Amendment (Charging for a Migration Outcome) Bill outlaws conduct involving asking for, receiving, offering or providing payment or other benefits in return for visa sponsorship.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said the new legislation will protect both the integrity of the Australian migration programme and potentially vulnerable overseas workers.
"It is not acceptable for anyone to make a personal gain from selling visa sponsorship and it is not acceptable for a foreign worker to become an Australian permanent resident or be granted a work visa for Australia by paying an employer for their visa," Mr Dutton said.
"Not only does paying a sponsor for a visa undermine Australian workplace law, but applicants who have paid for their visa are also known to be more vulnerable to exploitation and extortion by their sponsor."
Mr Dutton said the legislation was a recommendation of the recent Independent review of the Subclass 457 programme. The need for the legislation was also highlighted after multiple suspected instances of 'payment for visas' activity was identified. In each of the cases the Department of Immigration and Border Protection was unable to take direct action due to gaps in existing legal framework.
"The changes introduced by the Government today send a clear message that this behavior will not be tolerated and there are now consequences – such as up to two years imprisonment, penalties of up to $324,000 and or visa cancellation – for those engaging in this conduct."
The legislation was supported in the Senate by the crossbench.
Mr Dutton said the thoughtful and considered approach to this legislation by the crossbench shows the significance of the legislation in the protection of vulnerable workers – an issue of great importance to both the Government and the crossbench.
"I thank Senator's Lazarus, Wang, Lambie, Muir and Madigan for their support for this important legislation."